Charlotte Dawson comes face to face with her Twitter troll

Last night, Channel 7 news broadcast a story where Charlotte Dawson came face to face with two of her Twitter trolls. One troll states:

“There’s real life you and internet you. Yeah I gain a bit more confidence on the internet,” he says.

Another trolls says:

“They’re just things that I say. They’re things that I say on twitter and twitter isn’t real life.”

While a third states:

“I don’t necessarily mean what I tweet half the time it’s what I, what it’s… What my twitter is, is basically just a bit of fun,” he told Charlotte.

To me, this is a worrying mindset – the belief that online life doesn’t impact on real life. It does. What you post can affect your employment, your relationships and can even be subject to police investigations.

See previous stories about Dawson and her Twitter trolls:

If you have problems with online bullying, visit beyondblue.org.au or call Lifeline on 131 114.

Protect yourself against trolls, they are bullies

In response to the Charlotte Dawson Twitter affair, the ACMA released a guide to protect yourself against trolls on sites like Facebook and Twitter. The five steps to protect yourself and friends are:

  • IGNORE the troll—don’t respond to nasty, immature, offensive comments. Giving trolls the attention they want only gives them more power.
  • BLOCK the troll—take away their power by blocking them. If they pop up under a different name, block them again.
  • REPORT trolls—report to site administrators. If they pop up under a different name, report them again. If they continue, contact the police.
  • TALK with friends and family—If a troll upsets you, talk about it … it’s not you, it’s them. Visit the Cybersmart Online Helpline or call Kids Helpline on 1800 55 1800.
  • PROTECT friends from trolls—if trolls are upsetting a friend, tell them to Ignore, Block, Report. Tell their family and other friends and encourage them to seek support.

Read the entire piece here.

In an article published in The Age around the same time, George Wright tackles the topic of trolls. He says

Trolls need a passive audience, it is their oxygen. If they feel they can say what they like without censure then they will. It’s one thing to escalate policing the problem to the likes of Twitter/Facebook and Google, but the most immediate and long-term solution is, as a society, to call them out and say that it is not OK, and sideline them.

When a spiteful tweet is targeting someone, the troll’s pleasure is increased when the victim’s own network is a silent witness, or even prolongs it by sharing it. Nasty comments can be diluted and the heat dissipated by your network of friends running interference so to speak. Fellowship is the key – early intervention in the event is preferable to legislation.

My own experience in these matters can be distilled into the following points. When witnessing someone being bullied online:

  • Don’t ever share/retweet nasty comments – even “funny” ones.
  • Give the target of the online attack some positive attention to balance out the negative. This doesn’t mean you have to agree with their position, but acknowledge they don’t deserve this level of disrespect.
  • Don’t spin nasty comments into some form of comedy and then share them.
  • Don’t follow/friend a troll and if you do, unfollow/unfriend them as soon as they start. They will soon get the message that their comments are negatively affecting their social status.
  • Encourage the victim to log off and take a break for a few hours. Bullies get easily bored. Remind your friend that this is not a sign of surrender, there is no war, the troll does not win when you do nothing; they win when you keep raging at them. Invite your friend out for a coffee and laugh at the bully in real conversation.
  • Don’t troll the bully.
  • Don’t tell the victim to harden up or “get over it”.

Read The Age article here.

Corinne Grant’s take on the Charlotte Dawson Twitter attack

Yesterday’s post outlined the Twitter attack on television host and Smile Foundation ambassador Charlotte Dawson and the fallout from her hospitalisation.

 Corinne Grant has responded in a piece called Dear trolls, ask yourself this…  She begins with:

If you get on Facebook or Twitter or the online comments section of an article and throw hate at another human being, you have no idea what harm you are causing.  None.

Just because the person you abuse ignores you, it doesn’t mean you haven’t injured them.  Just because they retweet your comment and claim it didn’t bother them, there’s no proof that’s actually true.  And just because they joke about it doesn’t mean they are not covering up the fact that you and the hundreds of other people joining in the bullying aren’t hurting them incredibly.

 Not knowing the effect of your abuse does not absolve you of responsibility.

Sometimes it’s too easy to hide behind a screen when hurting someone. It’s too easy to hide behind an avatar or anonymous account. Would we say it to someone’s face? If the answer is no, then don’t post it.

Looking after your friends, family and self is as easy as that. Treat people how you’d like to be treated. It really is that simple.

Charlotte Dawson Twitter attack

Most of you have probably heard what happened to television host and Smile Foundation ambassador Charlotte Dawson over the past few days. Being someone who has a high profile, Dawson is often targetted by trolls on Twitter.

Some people block and report said trolls to Twitter, but in this instance, Dawson tracked down a person responsible, who was in turn suspended from her work. The suspension seemed to trigger an outpouring of further attacks, which ended in Dawson’s hospitalisation.

Read more from 3AW here.

Catherine Deveny wrote in yesterday’s Age:

What makes high-profile people engage with trolls? Or anyone? Self-loathing narcissism? I hope Charlotte Dawson gets well soon. And I hope she learns to use the block and unfriend button liberally.

Charlotte believes the best way to silence the bullies is to out them. I’m not convinced. I have no hesitation blocking haters, trolls, bores, wowsers or pedants. My feed, I choose. If people want to hate-follow, they can hate-follow someone else. My policy? No troll oxygen.

It’s a sad state of affairs when people hide behind anonymity to hurt others. And there is nothing worse than being bullied, particularly if you are isolated from the support of others for any reason.

The answer is to block, report, unfriend. Don’t engage with the trolls. Read more about these strategies here and here. Twitter has avenues to deal with these people. If, unfortunately something similar happens to you, use them.

I’m not criticising Charlotte Dawson’s actions, but the evidence of the results of the escalation of trolling is before our eyes.